Collaborative Thinking Blog Turning smart individuals into smarter teams

Podcast: Why Are There So Few High-Performing Teams

The Elusiveness Of The Perfect Team

What’s Getting In the Way — And What to Do About It

Why is it so difficult to turn good teams into great teams?

The need for high group intelligence and collaboration is compelling and clear: The Harvard Business Review recently published a study that found time spent in collaborative activities has increased by more than 50% over the past two decades. Today, the combined effort of many is more important than ever if businesses want to reach their goals, but it’s also important for leaders to understand what makes collaboration successful.

Charles Duhigg offers up a nice summary in this recent New York Times Magazine article on the quest by Google and other companies to build a perfect team. Read more

The Ambivalent Emerging Leader

Collaborative Coaching at the 2015 OD World Summit

The Ambivalent Emerging Leader: Millennial Leaders and Their Relationship to Power and Rank

Yael Sivi will be presenting at this year’s OD Network Conference / OD World Summit in Portland, Oregon, on Tuesday, October 20, 2015. (more information from the OD Network’s website)

Yael’s presentation will go beyond a traditional portrait of generational profiles at work. Rather, it will take a deeper, more nuanced and psychological look at themindset of emerging Millennial leaders with respect to rank, hierarchy, and power – and discuss implications for organizations and leadership development. 

This presentation will draw from Yael’s private practice work as a coach/therapist with Millennial professionals as well as on Collaborative Coaching’s experience in teaching leadership programs in private or public organizations.

Yael has delivered keynote speeches on generational readiness in organizations for several years and is one of the highest-rated faculty members at the annual Security Industry’s Institute at Wharton Business School.

If you want to learn more about our Generational Readiness keynote presentation and workshops, please contact Yael.

Coaching a Liar

An executive coaching client, let’s call her Joelle, sought coaching to enhance her “people skills”. In the process of conducting interviews as part of a 360 review process for her, I was told repeatedly by her staff that they believe Joelle is a liar—for instance, they believe that she reports going to meetings that she does not actually attend and changes versions of conversations to meet her needs with different people.

As her coach, I was faced with a dilemma.  Read more

Turning Team Members Into Team Players

Last year we opened our team collaboration assessment tool under a Creative Commons license. A year and 1000+ responses later, we have some interesting data to share.

We have been invited the Madinah Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship and by the International Association of Business Communicators to present our findings. There are two opportunities for a free 60-minute webinar about the collaborative advantage by  Read more

Collaborative Advantage IS Competitive Advantage

Recently, our research on distinguishing characteristics of high-performance teams led to an article in Communication World. (You can read the full article here or take the assessment yourself here.)

I took this as an invitation to poor over the data of by now more than 1000 submitted assessments and compiled the following chart: Read more

Big Data – People Analytics – And Some Questions

Today, The Atlantic brings (back) our attention to the use of Big Data in the context of people analytics (“They’re Watching You at Work“) . Yes, I am all for evidence-based Human Resource practices. Leaving evaluation and judgement to machines comes with upsides – such as the reduction of hiring and promotion biases and a higher overall quality in HR processes on a company level. There are downsides, too. Let me pick one: privacy. Read more

Highly Gifted? How NOT to Annoy Your Colleagues…

Let’s just assume you tested your IQ and you came out above 130. That, technically, makes you a highly-gifted person by many definitions social or organizational psychologists use. It also puts you disproportionally at risk of struggling with career issues if you choose to work for a bigger organization.

High intelligence doesn’t necessarily mean career success: Many organizations have observed that “high potentials” can rise fast – only to later fail or crash spectacularly. What is going on? Read more

Resilient Leadership – Webinar Announcement


Yael will be giving a webinar on resilient leadership for the Security Industry Institute Society. Participation is open to non-members as well. You are invited to sign up.

Date: April 11, 2013
Time: 12pm – 1pm EST

Current economic realities have meant that organizations are doing more with less, and many employees and leaders alike are overworked and at their personal and professional limits. Nonetheless, for an organization to stay vital and engaging, leaders must have the resilience required to weather difficult times. More than ever before, leaders must be as resilient as possible to manage daily stress and frustration. Becoming more resilient allows for leaders to continue the mighty task of inspiring their employees, but also allows that they, over time, continue to stay engaged in their leadership roles and avoid burnout.

Evidence-based People Management – Google Pushes On…

It’s been a while since Google’s “Project Oxygen” got a lot of press. Google’s people analytics team has been looking for the crucial characteristics of outstanding managers.

But that’s not all there is. I find it fascinating to observe how an evidence-based approach to people management becomes ever more ubiquitous. If you haven’t read The Science of Building New Teams – to name just one of many examples of current organizational psychology research projects – I strongly suggest it.

But back to Google who keeps pushing the envelope on applying solid analytics to issues of organizational effectiveness. Here is a short list.  Read more

Marissa Mayer – The Perils of Avoiding Straight Talk

For the past week, Marissa Mayer’s decision to corral the Yahoos has been captivating media outlets and HR professionals. Competitors and work practice experts have been heavily criticizing Meyer’s decision as setback and regression. Trailblazers such as Sir Richard Branson repeated their firm belief that the office is a thing of the past. Gender equity proponents point to Mayer’s nursery next to her office and the unfairness that curbing [email protected] brings to less privileged working mothers.

But is this about “supporting collaboration and creativity through increasing facetime and chance meetings” as the decision was initially sold by Yahoo? Let’s recall what happened: Read more

Team Collaboration — Reloaded

Today’s business and social goals can’t be accomplished by any one of us alone. Our success depends on each other. While that’s probably no news to you, it’s worthwhile to remind ourselves of it. How many teams or organizations make a wholehearted effort to live up to this evident truth?

Clearly, some do. Look at Fast Company’s current “The 50 most innovate companies” list to see impressive accomplishments in a wide range of B2B and consumer markets. Not one of these 50 examples is the result of one single mastermind. It’s teamwork.

In recent years, the evidence-based paradigm has also started to influence organizational research about what enables teams to be high-performing.  Read more

How Your “Shaken Self” Can Support New Year’s Resolutions

Unfailingly, the beginning of each year starts with many resolutions – most of which will barely be around mid February. Our struggle to pursue what’s good for us serves as a powerful reminder of what behavioral or attitudinal change really takes to become real and sustained. But perhaps we can manipulate ourselves more effectively?

Social scientists and marketing researcher have been studying forms of manipulation for quite some time now. There are some interesting findings you can use to “manipulate” yourself in sticking to your resolution. One is based on the concept of the shaken self. While the “think positive” paradigm has its place, looking at our shortcomings and unfulfilled goals can be more effective in helping us reach our goals. Read more

Competencies Required in Leaders of the Future

The most recent 2012 Towers Watson Global Workforce Study is out – and finds that “companies are running 21st-century business practices with 20-th century workplace practices and programs”. More and more businesses and organizations struggle to maintain engagement over time.

While factors such as stress, concerns about job security, having to do more with less are perhaps less surprising challenges to workforce engagement, the study also highlights the role of senior leadership as well as support from direct supervisors.  Read more

Try Deliberate Crudeness for More Creativity

Why do smart people defend stupid ideas? It’s easy to blame organizational culture – think about the Not-invented-here syndrome so nicely described in Morten Hansen’s book “Collaboration”. But there is clearly a personal and very emotional component to it. A recent study (Blind in one eye: How psychological ownership of ideas affects the types of suggestions people adopt) confirmed that we tend to treat our ideas as a form of personal psychological property – and defend it. So much about diversity of thought!  Read more

Can You Say What Your Culture Is?

We have been using the Harvard Business Review classic “Can you say what your strategy is?” lately when facilitating strategy retreats with leadership teams. The article’s authors challenge leaders to describe their strategy in 35 words or less. Try for yourself: You will rarely see a very aligned set of responses with this simple and yet powerful exercise.

Inspired by seeing tremendously clarifying and poignant discussions emerge, we applied the same idea to team culture. High-performance teams make all the difference for organizations to stay ahead of their competition. But what defines the culture of high-performing teams? How do you get there?

Well, start with clarity.  Read more

Improving Your Team’s “Signal to Noise” Ratio

Imagine you are in a room with loud music. Next to you is a friend who hardly hears what you have to say. You have two choices: Yell louder – or turn down the music. What will you do?

Many times, our workplaces are just like that: Too much competes for our attention – deadlines, last minute request, surprises. A constant level of high urgency acts like noise. Fechner, a physicist born in eighteen hundreds, formulated a “psychophysical law”. What matters, he found, is the signal-to-noise ratio. If you want to get heard – you need not speak louder. You can turn down the music.

Many teams and leaders we coach are tempted to act with more effort – to yell louder. This takes the form, e.g., of working harder, sending more emails, scheduling more meetings. What’s your favorite? And what, on the contrary, would it look like to reduce the noise?  Read more

Group Intelligence: Testosterone Disrupts Collaboration

A few months ago I wrote about some interesting findings from MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence. Looking into what supports group intelligence, the researchers found that individual intelligence of group members did not impact group intelligence as much as having more women on the team. (Want to increase the collective intelligence on your team? Invite more women!)

Anita Wooley and Thomas Malone were cautious to point out that this correlation has less to do with gender as such as with some kind of social sensitivity that is more likely to be found among women. That’s where another study published by the British Royal Society comes in: Its finding, in blunt terms, shows that testosterone makes women more egoistical.  Read more

The Collaboration Controversy

Welcome to thinking against the grain: Both the New York Times (The Rise of the New Group Think) and the New Yorker Magazine (Group Think: Brainstoming Doesn’t Really Work) presented within a week articles challenging an understanding of collaboration as non-criticizing group work. Perhaps our beliefs about what constitutes great collaboration are off the mark?

More accurately, but surely less provocatively, these articles challenge not collaboration itself but how we approach it. The overlapping criticism of both articles revolves around the beliefs that avoiding criticism and relying on group-based interactions such as brainstorming will lead to better outcomes.  Read more

What Bees Do Better Than Most Teams

What supports teams to make good decisions – and to make them efficiently? What kind of leadership is required to support the quality of collective decision-making? And will that quality be compromised in the absence of a “central guiding authority”?

Tapping the promises of diversity of thought, crowd-sourcing, and of co-created, open innovation hinges on answers to these questions which have been at the center of much fascinating research. One different perspective is presented in “The Smart Swarm” by Peter Miller, a highly fascinating exploration of how animal swarms communicate and “negotiate” to make collective decisions.

What Miller and others find is that swarms do a really fine job at mastering the complex challenges they face. In fact, their strategies are so effective, that approaches to solve highly complex problems such as the optimization of airline networks are modeled on swarm tactics.

To put it provocatively: Bees tend to better than most teams in many ways. One area where bees excel is the friendly competition of ideas.  Read more

Team Effectiveness Study Pilot Results

What makes team members team players?

Collaborative Coaching and Resonance Strategies combine their experience in organizational/team effectiveness and in employee research to explore this question.

While team-based work has become the predominant form of collaboration, few teams truly know how to collaborate. Many just go through the motions.

The “problem” is that collaboration cannot be mandated. It’s a decision people make and this decision is as much emotional as it is rational. And that’s why we ask for both – rational and emotional drivers for team collaboration. Resonance® provides a unique and powerful survey methodology that helps us explore behaviors and motivations of team players.  Read more

HR Myths: “Leveraging Your Strengths”

“They say ‘practice” makes perfect.’ Of course, it doesn’t. For the vast majority of golfers it merely consolidates imperfection.”
Henry Longhurst

The phrase, “leverage your strengths” has become commonplace in the language of talent development positive psychology. By now you pretty much want to believe that the secret of success is to become more of who you already are–even if you happen to be sociopathic.
Those who “push” this attractive philosophy simply are saying that the best way to do good work is to do what you are intrinsically good at–not necessarily what you are interested in doing.
We now have measures of your “signature strengths” (Seligman) and ways to “discover” your strengths (Buckingham & Clifton). It does seem to be true that  Read more

Should You Collaborate with a Non-collaborator?

Say – in your particular work context – you need to work with people who bring the spirit of collaboration to your project. Good news. Reasons to collaborate are manifold – and you may find Yochai Benkler’s new book “How cooperation triumphs over self-interest” a valuable read to see such causes in action.

But what if one individual does not play nice? Should you still collaborate?

Two interesting facts:

  1. 1. Few people actually consciously choose their collaboration strategy.
    In fact, in a variety of experiments roughly “50% or participants systematically and predictably behave cooperatively… A good number of these participants cooperated unconditionally – even when it came at a personal cost.” [The unselfish gene” by Yochai Benkler, Harvard Business Review August 2011].
  2.  Read more

What you can do to make work more meaningful?

What makes work more meaningful? “Help your co-workers and staff see progress.” In their research on ways to increase team productivity, Teresa Ambile and Steven Cramer found that small wins matter. (Harvard Business Review, May 2011, “The power of small wins”)

Making – even small – progress proved to be the overwhelming factor for how satisfied people felt at the end of the day. (So plan accordingly.) But it’s not just about progress. It’s about progress within a context of meaningful work.

In short: If you as a leader – formal or informal – consider it your job to increase individual and team effectiveness, then you are also a chief meaning officer.

How connected are you and the people around you to the mission of your team, division, or organization? While most places have a statement of purpose in place, too few can relate their activities to it. Read more

Want to increase the collective intelligence of your team? Invite more women.

With all the hopes and promises of open innovation, team-based creativity, and peer-driven collaboration, effective ways to increase collective intelligence are hotly debated. One repeatedly replicated finding is that IQs of individual members don’t correlate with a group’s collective intelligence – measured by its ability to solve complex problems and to make effective decisions.

In other words, teams are more than just a collection of top talent.

This month’s recent Harvard Business Review adds a stunning piece of data to the debate about what makes a team smarter. More women!  Read more

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